Florida Law Makes Fake Service Dogs a Criminal Offense

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The problem of fake service animals has been around for a long time. It is childishly easy to go online and get vests, ID cards, or badges that will allow people to pass their dogs off as service animals and take them into public places where pets aren’t allowed. Worse, there’s little to no consequences for doing so.

Canine Service Dog on a City Street by Shutterstock.
Canine Service Dog on a City Street by Shutterstock.

While the market for fake service animal paraphernalia is likely to thrive for a long time, the state of Florida is at least doing something to change the lack of consequences. As of July 1, if you try to falsely pass off your pet as a service animal, you could be looking at jail time. A new law will make it a second-degree misdemeanor to misrepresent your pet, punishable by as much as 60 days in jail and 30 hours of community service.

Puppy in training as service dog by Shutterstock.
Puppy in training as service dog by Shutterstock.

This is a good thing. Despite what a lot of people think, passing a pet off as a service animal is not a harmless infraction. Disabled people who rely on service animals for their day-to-day routines already encounter many obstacles, partly from the ignorance of business owners who are unaware of the laws. When pet owners try to pass their untrained dogs off as service animals, it just makes it harder for those who are disabled to convince others that their animals serve a legitimate need. Too many business owners have been made gun-shy by fakes who harass or bite strangers, make messes on the floor, and generally behave in ways that a real service animal with more than 100 hours of training never would.

German Shepherd as a Rescue Dog by Shutterstock.
German Shepherd as a Rescue Dog by Shutterstock.

The law also addresses the other problem with service animals: It will strengthen penalties for denying services to people with legitimate service animals. That’s already illegal under the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act, but it will now be a matter of state law as well.

Via Tampa Tribune

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